In less than an hour from now the 20th National Sports Festival will come to an unceremoniously end if something urgent is not done about it.
Edo State, host of the multi-sports festival, is threatening that it will forcefully shut down the Games at exactly 12 noon on Thursday, April 8, if the Federal Government does not release the funds it promised to assist the Edo State Government with, to enable the Niger Delta state successfully host the event that had suffered several postponements.
Apart from the lengthy postponement induced by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Festival had also suffered three other shift in date because of paucity of funds on the part of states that had originally planned to host the event.
Under this uncertainty as to what state would have the financial clout and necessary facilities to host the Games, Edo State came to the rescue but with a caveat.
The Godwin Obaseki-led Edo State Government said it had the facilities but would need some financial assistance from the Federal Government to host a hitch-free festival.
The Federal Government accepted but most surprisingly, up till now the said financial assistance has not been released.
This promise of assistance was made more than a month ago and Edo State had been shouting and reminding the federal government of its promise, as the kick-off date of the festival was approaching.
Five days into the Games Edo State Government has made good its threat, insisting that it will bring Nigeria’s version of the Olympics to an unceremoniously end if it does not get the money by 12 noon today, Thursday, April 8, 2021.
If Edo does not get the money and shuts down the Games, not only will it be the first time it is happening, it will also be a monumental, national embarrassment. Nigeria, with all the negative stories of insurgency, banditry and abduction, will attract global media attention, for the wrong reason!
Some quick questions needing urgent answers. How much exactly did Edo State ask for that Nigeria cannot make available? Why is it so difficult to release the money? Or, is it that the amount is too much? Why did the federal government accept if the requested amount was too much and it cannot make the money available?
And even more mind-buggling: Can Vice President Yemi Osinbajo make available the money before 12 noon to avert the looming embarrassment? Does Osinbajo have the legal authority to authorise the release of the money when President Muhammadu Buhari did not formally hand over to him before travelling to the UK for medical attention?
If the money is not released by 12 noon and Edo State goes ahead with its threat, Nigeria will be the biggest casualty as its image will suffer serious battering. The National Sports Festival was programmed by the Federal Ministry of Sports Development to serve as one of the training programmes for the forthcoming Olympic Games. Now, this will no longer be possible.
The second casualty will be the athletes who have invested time and energy training in the last one year. All their effort will now go to waste! So, sad.
The third casualty will the government of the various states that have spent so much money preparing their athletes for the Games. They have also put in money conveying their athletes to Edo, paid for accommodation, feeding and allowances of their athletes and officials.
As the seconds and minutes are ticking away, a stupefied nation waits, in baited breath, to see whether Yemi Osinbajo can avert this looming national embarrassment.